The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 2, 2012

Are Voter I.D. concerns overblown or real?

(Continued)

One alternative is to set up a computer at every precinct in the state that includes the relevant information from the databases already used to verify the existence, place of residence and eligibility of voters who pre-register.

That would cost $40 million or more to set up, plus ongoing maintenance costs, but it’s a small price to pay for boosting the integrity of elections, supporters say.

Even absent the computerized system at each precinct, people who don’t want to pre-register, have an outdated driver’s license and still want to vote could cast a provisional ballot — with their eligibility verified after the election, amendment supporters contend.

The latter option could be challenging for election judges if anywhere close to 500,000 Minnesotans opt for Election Day registration as they have in the past. And the results of elections could be delayed for days as those provisional ballots are left uncounted until the “substantially equivalent ... eligibility verification” is done.

Mail-in ballots

Then there’s the question verifying the identity of absentee voters. The amendment specifically requires that “all voters, including those not voting in person” have their identities checked in a “substantially equivalent” way.

So, if election judges at the polls are checking voters’ faces against the photo on the ID they are presenting, how are voters who mail their ballots going to be checked in a substantially equivalent way? Opponents say this problem could result in substantial changes for nearly 300,000 Minnesotans who use mail-in ballots in presidential election years. 

Supporters of the amendment say those voters could just use an ID number from their driver’s license or military ID card, although that wouldn’t seem to be equivalent to checking the absentee voter’s face against an ID photo.

“I guess it all depends on what your definition of ‘substantially equivalent’ is,” said Cornish, who believes the phrase provides enough wiggle room that lawmakers can preserve mail-in balloting largely as it exists now. That’s important for small townships that do all of their voting by mail-in ballot, he said.

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